Oklahoma Contemporary
Blackout poetry by Autumn Hudgins
Text with some words blacked out and some words circled (whisper, louder, accept, new, life, with gratitude, but,filled with fear, what, did, become, or, would become)

New Light

April 08, 2020

#AtHomeArt: Blackout Poetry

A creative quarantine activity from the Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Art Council
Smiling teens pose in front of a wall
Teen programs at Oklahoma Contemporary allow metro area high school students to think critically and creatively while looking at, discussing and making art with contemporary artists, educators and their peers.

Most people can tell you the meaning of the word diction, but it takes a poet to turn word choice into art. That's the heart of today's #AtHomeArt project, inspired by National Poetry Month and presented by the Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Arts Council. To help keep those quarantine blues at bay, these young arts ambassadors are here with an activity to help you find inspiration in the every day.

Blackout poetry, also known as erasure, can take many forms and achieve many effects. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith has written several poems in the style, including Declaration (drawn from the Declaration of Independence) and The Greatest Personal Privation (from historical letters between slaveholders). Author Jonathan Safran Foer even "wrote" a whole book this way: Tree of Codes, crafted by removing words from a 1934 collection of short stories by Bruno Shulz.

If you'd like more before you get started on today's project, check out this video of a talk by author Janet Holmes at the 2011 Erasure Poetry Festival. Holmes discusses her work on the book, The ms of m y kin (2009), which uses the poetry of Emily Dickinson to create a new work of art.

Ready to make your own blackout poetry? Let's get started!

Here's what you'll need:

Old, unwanted magazines or books work great for the printed page — but if you can't bring yourself to deface something from your collection, you can work from these examples. Take a look at the words on the page and find the first one that speaks to you. Block out the words around it, using a solid black filler, artwork or arrows to guide the eye toward the next word or phrase you want to include in your poem. Then take it from there!

To give you a little inspiration, here are a few examples created by our Teen Arts Council members:

A script with text crossed out and certain phrases squared
By Nadia Marie Rashid
Text with words blacked out, circled and doodled on
By Aditi Gali
Text with words crossed out and words circled, with “Do We Really Care?” written at the bottom
By Nick Sayegh
Text blacked out with the words “she is unable to live/facing these brutal facts” left
By Gladys Green
Blackout poetry with these words remaining: “He now would throw forgiveness out again changed his sliver of sureness she still told but something took him part memory childhood left alone standing”
By Autumn Hudgins
Blackout poetry with blue and red circles, leaving the words  “restlessly/i hurt someone/happiness/i’m not happy/i am/tired/speechless”
By Kaitlyn Tran

- #AtHomeArt project from our Teen Arts Council

Applications are currently open for paid positions on the Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Arts Council. OCTAC members spend an academic year planning, designing and facilitating ways to connect teens with Oklahoma Contemporary through gallery experiences, programs, print pieces, events and project generation. Rising sophomores through seniors are encouraged to learn more and apply here.

Tags tags
poetry At Home Art teens blackout poetry Teen Arts Council

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